In its Aug. 6 editorial, the Steamboat Pilot & Today suggested the Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley should expect "public scrutiny" of its mission and agenda. We wholeheartedly agree and welcome the opportunity to publicly define our mission and agenda, as well as address the controversy surrounding Dr. Stephen Aigner's presentation to his former colleagues and students at Iowa State University.
First, let us define our mission and agenda. The mission of the Community Alliance is "to help preserve the natural environment of the Yampa Valley, enhance the quality of human life, retain the unique character of our community and to build a sustainable society in harmony with nature." CAYV pursues its mission through advocacy, education and participation in local decision- and policy-making processes.
CAYV is an advocate of smart growth, which essentially is embodied in the Steamboat Springs Area Community Plan and the West Steamboat Springs Area Plan. It is a term that focuses a town's future development on solid principles of thoughtful community planning. Those principles require: providing affordable housing; planned public parks; sustainable practices that preserve natural, cultural and economic resources for future generations; and development that pays its fair share to compensate for socio-economic and other impacts. Preventing runaway growth that results in over-building, vacated commercial districts, and overburdened services such as water and roads is another requirement.
Examples of these principles in action include the 2007 Inclusionary Zoning and Linkage Ordinance, CAYV's efforts to save the community $4.6 million in building-use tax, planned unit developments that meet requirements for architectural integrity and public benefit, and standing up for the public's priorities and desires as espoused in the SSACP, WSSAP, Vision 2020 and 2030 and periodic community surveys.
In communities across the country experiencing rampant growth and the prospect of losing their identity to the zeal of developers, organizations advocating smart growth principles help the citizens of those communities maintain their heart and soul. More often than not, they do this in the face of overwhelming odds, and, in some cases, intimidation and fear of retribution.
Let us correct the record. Community Alliance of the Yampa Valley does not advocate a "no-growth" policy. We understand that growth is inherent in any vibrant and dynamic community, and we embrace that. But we also have seen the effects of rampant and uncontrolled growth on communities. Witness the bankrupt petitioner of the approved annexation in Minturn, the bankrupt subdivision in Hayden, and the infrastructure issues in Stagecoach.
CAYV hopes Steamboat Springs would be able to stand up to the pressures of externally driven development and keep its small-town character intact as we, the citizens, decide how this community can grow in harmony with the beauty that lies within the Yampa Valley. It is no coincidence that these attributes of small-town character and natural beauty, in addition to Western heritage, are cited as our greatest economic assets and top priorities to preserve and maintain time and time again.
Although we may have our disagreements with some council members and developers, we all can readily agree that we don't want to spoil the special nature of this place we call home.
How can we prevent that spoilage?
First, it is incumbent upon all of us to understand the forces and pressures of development on this valley. Potentially, more than a billion dollars of revenue was in the construction pipeline in the ski area base alone before the financial meltdown. Add to that an annexation that will nearly double our population and shouldn't all of us be paying attention?
Second, we need to understand what connections developers have with the community and what pressures they put on elected officials and people in positions of power. This includes the pressures on the Pilot & Today and other information outlets that rely heavily on advertising revenues from the development, construction and real estate industries to bring us our daily news.
We can only hope that the citizens of Steamboat Springs, as well as the City Council, developers and Realtors, rise to the occasion and help the town implement smart growth policies that preserve the community's character and its natural beauty. CAYV operates on the fundamental premise that all of us lose if either were compromised. Holding ourselves accountable is essential.
As to Aigner's comments about CAYV and Steamboat, we regret that his academic presentation to a college class was confused with his civic role as CAYV's administrator. While the presentation and candid look at this community cannot be denied or hidden, it should be taken in the context of a professor of sociology explaining to a far away audience how the forces of development can negatively impact a community and how difficult a role it is for any counterforce to have a positive impact.
When a person or community has a mirror put in front of them (figuratively speaking), they tend to react in one of two ways: break the mirror or look inward and reflect on that with which they have been confronted. The Pilot & Today, in its one-sided attack on Aigner and the CAYV, chose to break the mirror.
We are perplexed why Aigner and the Community Alliance have been singled out for this tabloid-type exposure. The Community Alliance has achieved its status by the ideas and insight it has brought to the table, not its agenda nor its spokespeople. There are many other groups lobbying City Council, yet none of them are having their "agendas, spokespersons or their members" scrutinized by the local newspaper. If the Pilot & Today spent this much effort investigating all City Council candidates and interest groups, we would have a much more informed electorate.
Going forward, we hope the community can stand up to the pressures of growth, help promote smart growth principles and view the Alliance as an ally in keeping the heart and soul of Steamboat intact.
Yours in building a better community,
Jack White, Rich Levy, John Whittum, Bob Enever, Towny Anderson, Jodee Anderson, Keith Giglio, Katharine Gaylord, Leslie Lovejoy, Cindy Wither, Sally Testrake, Lynn Abbott, Chuck Abbott, Hope Cook, Holly Williams, Jeff Morehead, Robert R. White, Michael Arsulich, Jack Dysart, Roger Steen, Leslie Steen, Paul Stettner, Gil Barbier